First Timer’s Guide to DC

I never had too much of a desire to go to DC, I assumed the entire city was consumed by American history and politics, neither of which I had a huge interest in growing up. I got a bit more into political science during undergrad, and decided to do an internship in DC. I completely fell in love with the city and realized that it is so much more than history and politics; it is amazing food, great people, and a rich culture. If you live in the US, or even abroad, DC should be a must see on your list.  I compiled some tips and must sees, especially if it is your first time in the district.

Getting Around

Hopping from one neighborhood to the next is pretty easy in DC as the Metro system is very clean and easy to navigate. All you have to do is buy a $2.00 metro card from the ticketing machine, and most rides will be $2.00 or under – you are cha rged after your ride depending on the distance you went. Another fun way to get around is electric scooters. In 2018, a number of companies like Lyft, Lime, and Skip released electric scooter apps which have the similar idea of CitiBikes. There are thousands of scooters all over the city and can find them on the sidewalk of any block. Once you find an available scooter, you download the app and use your credit card to pay – most are around $1.00 to start and $0.25 per mile. It is an enjoyable ride around the city, especially on a nice day.


Any of the Smithsonian Museums

Yes, literally any of them. One of the best things about D.C. is that the Smithsonian Museums are completely free and most aren’t ticketed so you can come and go as you please. And there is a museum for everyone; art, history, and space lovers. Even if you go into one and you wind up not liking it, you can leave and quickly go to another one especially since many of them are near each other. Some of my favorite are United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, and the Museum of American Art.  The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a ticketed event museum, but the tickets are free. The tickets become available online each day at 6 am, and it is definitely worth getting up that early for.


Monuments and Memorials

The most popular monuments and memorials are the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and World War II Memorial. Even if historical figures aren’t really your thing, you should at least stop by and see the architecture, it really is beautiful. I would suggest making a day out of it and seeing all of them as once you are in the area, as they are all relatively close to each other. You mind as well head on over to the White House while you are there as it is 0.9 miles from the Washington Monument.

Quick Bites

If you are a foodie, Union Market is an absolute must. While I was living in DC, I lived near the market so I have tried a variety of food there and haven’t had a bad meal. There are a variety of food vendors with everything from empanadas, to dosa, to gumbo. I have to say my favorite is probably Takorean, which if you couldn’t tell by the name is a Korean Taco grill. I’d recommend getting few different items from different vendors and share with whoever you are with so you get to try a bit of everything. If  you go during a busy time (noon on Saturday or Sunday) it may be difficult to find a seat, so try going earlier in the morning or around 3 pm so you can actually enjoy your time there.



Arlington, Old Town Alexandria or Georgetown

If you have the time, I’d suggest either exploring Arlington, Old Town Alexandria, or Georgetown depending on what your interests are. These three areas are surrounding neighborhoods/ cities to DC, all of which are public transportation accessible. Arlington, VA is a hip city near DC with tons of bars, restaurants and shopping. Tourists mostly head over to Arlington for the Arlington National Cemetery which is a historic military cemetery. If you are there, be sure to see the changing of the guards, it is a really beautiful experience. Old Town Alexandria is a historic district on the Potomac River waterfront that George Washington once called home. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is a must see while in Old Town. After seeing the memorial, you should stick around and walk the cobblestone roads and visit some of the beautiful waterfront restaurants. Georgetown is very similar to Old Town Alexandria, it is also waterfront, with cobblestone roads. People typically visit Georgetown for the shopping,as there are dozens of stores and boutiques lining each side of the block. I probably wouldn’t go to both Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria on the same trip, especially if it was my first time in the city. 

I hope you get the chance to visit the district, there really is something for everyone there. If you are looking for a different type of recommendation, feel free to contact me!


Finding Francesca

  1. Lynette Huggins says:

    Nicely done Francesca. I, too, am a fan of Washington, D.C. I was there in October 2018 and plan to return in the summer of 2019

  2. francesca says:

    Thanks so much, Lynette! I hope you have a wonderful time!

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